ANOTHER TOP 10 DRIVER ARRIVES FROM CANADIAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
At the 2014 Sno*Drift Rally a familiar red and orange rally car emblazed with a royal lion graphic blasted through the powdery snow to take a fifth overall position just behind some of Rally America’s best drivers.
The striking livery was instantly recognizable and has always been a fan favorite synonymous with the dramatic driving style of Leonid “Crazy Leo" Urlichich, who competed in two Rally America seasons from 2012-13. Crazy Leo originally came from the Canadian Rally Championship (CRC) and brought Can-Jam Motorsports to the U.S. for their first series of races in 2012. Together the team took home a career best overall finish earning a fifth place spot.
This season the same car arrived at Sno*Drift, but without Crazy Leo behind the wheel. Instead, a new CRC driver made his Rally America debut and placed a solid fifth in the Overall category.
Quebec based Alex Beland and co-driver Lyne Murphy are fairly new to the rally world, but already amassed notable accolades in two seasons in the CRC. Beland was the top of the CRC novice drivers in 2012 and the two boast a career best third place finish at the Pierce Niege Rally in 2013.
Beland and Murphy became the Can-Jam drivers when Crazy Leo decided to pursue a World Rally Championship ride. Can-Jam’s expertise and professionalism, and a growing familiarity with Rally America class rules gave Beland the perfect platform to reach a higher level at new events and on new roads.
Beland comes from an ATV racing background, but gave up racing for three years after having children. His racing itch was left unsatisfied and he soon looked into rallycross, which led to him explore stage rally in 2012. He immediately built a Subaru WRX and quickly established himself in the CRC as a top ten North American driver over the course of a few seasons.
The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood was Beland and Murphy’s second Rally America event and arguably the fiercest competition they faced so far with Ken Block, Travis Pastrana, Antoine L’Estage and David Higgins on the docket. The team stayed in the hunt averaging sixth best stage times until an uncharacteristic engine failure ended their Rally in the 100 Acre Wood on stage 6.
The team is encouraged to have done so well at the event, and they will have more opportunities to prove themselves. Beland and Murphy plan to compete at three additional Rally America rounds and will see where they place in the standings at the end.
With Beland heading the Can-Jam Motorsports charge in America, what has happened to Crazy Leo and his dreams of becoming a WRC driver?
Crazy Leo still resides in Toronto, Canada and is a constant fixture in the Can-Jam workshop where he advises the team and their newest driver. Leo recently announced his selection in the 2014 DMACK Fiesta Challenge and will compete in five WRC events in a Ford Fiesta R2. Only thirteen drivers were hand selected to compete and Leo will be one of a handful of North American drivers who have made the jump into the international competition.
Rally America will continue to monitor Crazy Leo’s Drive DMACK Cup results and we extend good wishes to his new rally adventures. Alex Beland and Lyne Murphy certainly have big shoes to fill in the Can-Jam Motorsports car and appear to have the speed to give Rally America’s drivers a run for their money.
Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Inc., Ford Racing, Honda Performance Development, Exedy Racing Clutches, VP Racing Fuels, Streetwise Parts and GoPro.
The Sno*Drift Rally will air on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday, April 5th at 2:00pm EDT.
Action photo: Alex Haugen